Sunday, April 1, 2012

Luke Part 60: Zaccheus

Text: Luke 19:1-10

This section is a continuation of what we have seen previously in Luke.  Jesus is traveling on the way to Jerusalem.  He goes through Jericho.  This is sort of unusual; it seems like it is out of the way.  Why is Jesus doing this?  God has chosen a man whom He would save.

Zaccheus, we’re told in verse 3, wants to see Jesus.  Why should he want to see Jesus?  He is rich!  He has all his needs met; he has a comfortable life representing the Roman government.  Why did he want to see Jesus?  Apparently, the Spirit was working within him.

The story of Zaccheus is a picture of the salvation of any man.  Zaccheus is a picture of repentance and faith – there is no salvation without repentance.  He is a sinful man, but he joyfully receives the Savior.  He has been changed!

Previously, we have seen Jesus tell His disciples that it is impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  But right here we see that the impossible is possible with God!

Zaccheus bears witness of the signs that always follow a true work of God: a joyful acceptance of the Word, a true repentance of love, not law.  Zaccheus wanted to repay fourfold anyone whom he had cheated.  That is far in excess of what the Law demanded.  Zaccheus was led by the Spirit go far above and beyond the rule.

Jesus said, in verse 9, that this man was “a son of Abraham” and that was the reason for his salvation.  What does this mean?  It does not mean simply that Zaccheus was a Jew.  It means that he was a person who was following in the faith of Abraham.  The Son of Man, the promised Seed of Abraham, is here and He has come to seek and to save the lost.

Compare this account of Zaccheus with Bartimaeus – two extremes are represented.  God can bring in the poorest of the poor, and can also save the richest, most self-sufficient man.  All come the same way – through Jesus.

In the coming sections, we will look at Galatians, and have some further discussion on how those of faith are truly the children of Abraham.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Luke Part 59: Bartimaeus Receives Sight

Text: Luke 18:35-43

This passage is a most encouraging section of Scripture.  It is a perfect picture of Jesus dealing mercifully with a sinner.  In the previous sections in Luke, we have seen some examples of blindness: the young ruler who was willfully blind (he couldn't see the way of salvation and walked away from it) and the disciples who couldn't see Jesus' need to die to fulfill the way to salvation.  This is an example of a physically blind man who saw.

Blind Bartimaeus (as we learn his name from the other gospels) was told that Jesus was coming by.  He knew Jesus.  Someone had told him about Jesus.  Let's look at how Bartimaeus responds when he hears Jesus is coming by, noting the close parallels of this account and the testimony of all who have been saved from spiritual blindness:

1.  He calls out.  He knows the name "Jesus", meaning a Savior for sinners.

2.  He calls Him, "Son of David."  He knows this is the Messiah and identifies Him as such.

3.  He asks for something.  He has an urgent request and he is ready to make it known.  He knows Jesus, knows that Jesus has the power to help him, and he has the audacity to ask for mercy.

4.  He makes the request personal, saying "Jesus, have mercy on me."

The people around him are shutting him up, telling him to be quiet.  Jesus is going to Jerusalem; He is busy; leave Him alone.

5.  But the blind man perseveres.  He cries out all the louder in response.

He is incapacitated by his blindness.  He can't get closer to Jesus on his own; he is totally dependent on Jesus.  But Jesus has mercy and says, "Bring him to me."  And Jesus asks him what he wants.

6.  Bartimaeus calls Jesus "Lord".  He acknowledges Him as Lord, and asks that he might regain his sight.

Jesus is a good and loving Master, and he healed Bartimaeus.  In the same way, Jesus heals us and brings us into His family, giving us free access to Him and bringing us all the way to glory.  He is a good Savior, a complete Savior, and He finishes all that He begins.

What is Bartimaeus' response?  The same as any true follower of Jesus should be:  He follows Jesus, proclaiming what He has done, spending his life glorifying God.  His testimony of what God has done spurs others into glorifying God too.  May our lives, like this man's, be a testimony of God's grace and an encouragement to all around us to praise God!

Luke Part 58: The Rich Young Ruler

Text: Luke 18:18-30

In this passage, we see an incident recorded where someone came to Jesus asking questions.  That is a good thing; asking questions is an excellent way to learn.  He asked, "Good teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

No rabbi would stand to be called "good" teacher, as that attribute was God alone.  Jesus questioned the young ruler's motivation, saying "Why do you call Me good?  No one is good but God alone."  Jesus was asking him if he really believed that He was God.

Then, the Lord brings the Law to answer to the question of eternal life.  In quoting the commandments, Jesus rearranges their order, showing His ownership over the Law.  This man claimed that he had kept the commandments.  But still he had no assurance.  He seems to be asking, "Is this really all there is?"

Jesus doesn't correct his understanding of the Law.  Instead, Jesus tells him to sell all that he has and give it to the poor.  The ruler was sorrowful -- indicating that his heart indeed wasn't right; it was still with his wealth and riches.

Jesus said that it's harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.  There are many interpretations of this phrase, but the most straightforward is: it's an impossibility.  It is simply impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.  So, those hearing asked, "Then who can be saved?"

Jesus shows us that it is an impossibility for man to save himself.  "With man, it is impossible."  But with God, our salvation is not impossible!  We don't know if this man ever repented, although we do know from the other gospel accounts (Mark 10:21) that Jesus loved this man.

In response to this event, Peter, the spokesman for the group, says, "We have left it all for You."  Jesus promises they would have many times more in this current life, and eternal life in the world to come.  Note again: you cannot outgive the Giver!  The blessings we have in this life far exceed the value of the material things we see around us!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Luke Part 57: Let the Little Children Come (and let us come as little children)

Text: Luke 18:15-17

In this passage of Luke we read about Jesus interacting with a group of children.  In this scene, we see that there were many parents bringing their children to Jesus for blessing.  Were some of the children sick and needed healing?  Did the parents want a blessing for some superstitious reason?  Were they just impressed because Jesus was a great teacher, and wanted a blessing for that reason?  The reasons are not disclosed.

(Note that two different words for kids are used in this passage: one for infants or babies, and one for children up to teenage years.)

The disciples didn't want Jesus bothered by this situation.  But Jesus overruled them.  He told them not to forbid them, to let them come.  The Kingdom of God belongs to such as them.  There are two areas of encouragement here.  First, parents are encouraged to bring their children to Jesus.  We do that when we bring our children to the worship service, the place where we expect to meet Jesus.  We do that in our prayer, in our Bible studies, in our times of family devotions.  Second, Jesus gives encouragement that He will not turn them away.

What is the thrust of Jesus' teaching?  Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God like a little child shall not enter in.  All, regardless of age, must enter into the kingdom in the way of a child.

What is the way of a child?  This is a simple description of faith.  A child can come, because a child can exercise faith.  And children, in their relationship to their parents, are examples of faith.

  • A child is dependent on the resources of another.  So are we, as Christians, and it does not change as we grow in Christ.
  • A child has complete trust.  In the same way, we put our total trust in God.
  • A child has complete sincerity.  Their deepest relationship of trust and dependence is with their parents.  Likewise, we have many relationships with those around us, but only one relationship of trust and dependence -- with the Lord.
  • Children naturally love their parents.  They delight in the child-parent relationship.  They want to be cared for.  Likewise, we should delight in our relationship with God.
  • It's not a one-time thing.  A child is continuously dependent and trusting.  Likewise, our relationship to the Lord is a continual thing, not a one-time event.
Although we are all imperfect, and often fall short, these items above are what we strive after, what we are called to in our faith.

So we see that the kingdom of heaven is made up of childlike people.  Also, we read here that it is received like a child.  What does it mean to "receive" the kingdom?  The kingdom is Christ; receiving the kingdom is the same thing as receiving Christ, and being in Christ.

Have you received Christ?  If not, humble yourself as a child and receive Him?  If so, follow Him with childlike faith!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Luke Part 56: Pray and not lose heart

Text: Luke 18:1-14

This passage brings to a conclusion a section of Luke that has started at the 9th chapter.  All through this section, Luke has contained teachings on kingdom life that are mostly exclusive to his gospel.  After this section, Luke tracks along much more closely with Mark and Matthew's accounts.

In this final passage about kingdom like, Jesus is talking about prayer.  He's discussing what our part is in maintaining a relationship with Him, the kind of relationship that enables men to pray and not to faint.

We have two parables presented to us: that of the unrighteous judge and of the Pharisee and the publican.  In both these parables, striking contrasts are shown between the two individuals.

First, we have the unrighteous judge.  This judge doesn't fear God or respect man.  Probably to the Jews, this represented a Roman ruler who was presiding over the Jews, but didn't really care about them.  There is no constraint upon this man; he is a God unto himself.  This despicable individual is the direct opposite of our loving heavenly Father, who does indeed have a regard and care for men.

A widow is seeking justice, or righteous judgment.  Initially, the judge has no inclination to help her, but he eventually relents because she simply refuses to be quieted.  He will do what she has asked, just to be done with her.

Jesus tells us to pay attention to the response of the unrighteous judge, and so see the contrast between the unrighteous judge and our heavenly Father.  We should have a different expectation than the widow.  The judge granted her request out of his own self-interest, but God grants our requests because He loves us and loves righteousness.

The widow had a low standing in society.  Widows were assured of nothing; they were in a precarious position.  But our standing is free access to the Judge of the Kingdom.  We know our Judge will judge rightly.

The widow shows us consistency, an example of coming constantly.  She is an example of constant coming.  Like her, we should pray and not lose heart or "faint".  Why we should always be praying:

  • There are always further things to pray about.  Answered prayer will lead to more encouragement for us, more coming to God, more requests.
  • Our Judge rules according to righteousness, not according to what we might think is right.  So we should not lose heart when we find he has ruled in a way different that what we were wanting.
  • Sometimes, His answer is simply "No" or "Not yet."  He knows what is best for us.
Then there is the question: will Christ find such faith as is taught here?  A faith close to God, a faith that feels on closeness to Him?  This sort of faith requires effort.  It takes time and thought.  It is easy to lose heart!

Then we come to the second parable, of the publican and the Pharisee.  What does Luke include this parable?  Luke is calling us to a closeness with the Lord.  Are we just casually acquainted with Him?  Are our eyes, like the Pharisee, fixed on ourselves on and on Him?

If you think you have an extensive knowledge of the Bible; if you think you have superior doctrine; if you come to God on the basis of those things, you are like the Pharisee.  If you come on no basis, if you see your own sinfulness, you are the publican.  Come to Him with the understanding that He knows you completely, and loves you anyway.

Christians can fall into the trap of the Pharisee.  If you no longer see the need to confess sin and be real before God, coming understanding your own unworthiness, you need this reminder!

Note that the publican asked for something.  Ask!  That is what the Lord wants us to do.  If this wretch can come before God and ask for something, should not his children do the same?

Will we pray and faint not?  Will we be those who humble ourselves before God?  Will we die to ourselves and live for Him?  Will the Lord find "such faith" as seen here in us?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Luke Part 55: Prophecies from the Olivet Discourse

Text: Luke 17:22-37

This section recorded here could also be referred to as the "Olivet Discourse".  Chapter 24 of Matthew contains a more detailed account of this discourse.  Matthew's account is targeted at the Jews, and contains more description to enable them to foresee the destruction in 70 AD.  There is also some prophecy applied to the Second Coming of Christ.  Luke's gospel is targeted primarily at the Gentiles, so the account here is more broadly applicable.

This passage might be considered as "meat"... not the simple "milk" that is easy to digest, but rather a teaching for those who are already strong and wise to digest.  The prophecies contained in this passage are mysterious; there is not unanimity of opinion in these verses.  Some thinks are known and some things are hidden; here are a few observations:

In the first section, verses 22-25, Luke records the words, "days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man".  Jesus' followers will suffer in this life.  A time will come for some of them when they will want for it to be finished.  You may have to suffer greatly in the service of the King.  In all these things, you are expected to be joyful; remembering that it is in trials where you will meet Him.

Note that some will say "Here is Jesus!".  But, where Jesus truly is, you don't need for it to be pointed out.  When Jesus is at work, His people will know it.  When the Son of Man is at work upon the earth, it will be clear for all to see.

The second section encompasses verse 26-33.  It begins with a comparison to the times Noah and Sodom.  From this we see that when the Son of Man is revealed, there will be a sudden interruption of ordinary life.  In a similar way, people who escaped the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD found that their lives were turned upside-down.

"Remember Lot's wife."  Those who cherish this life, those who long for this life, who cannot bear for it to be interrupted, these will be those who lose their life.  For Christians, life in this world is secondary -- they love the Lord more than they love this life.

The third section covers verses 34-36.  The basic principle here is that every individual must deal with the Lord on his won.  There are two people that seem identical, working and living together, but only one is taken.  The other is left to suffer the judgment that awaits those who reject Christ.

Finally, we get to verse 37.  This verse is difficult to apply.  Note that the disciples as "Where" not "When" will these things take place.  Jesus doesn't give a direct answer pointing to a particular place.  His response is sort of like a proverb such as, "if the shoe fits..."  The fulfillment of these things may occur in different places and in different ways.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Luke Part 54: The Ten Lepers

Text: Luke 17:11-20

As we have seen in the previous passage, trials and tribulations are inevitable in the kingdom, and it will be necessary for us to ask forgiveness.  In that passage, the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith, and Jesus told them to follow Him and trust that their faith would see them through.

This passage (the miracle of the ten lepers) continues on the teaching of the previous one (the story of the unprofitable servant).  Note that these events didn't happen in direct chronological order.  Luke placed this account here in order to show an additional example of the teaching also contained in the parable of the unprofitable servant.

This account begins by showing us the ten lepers.  Remember that leprosy was often used as a picture of sin.  These lepers stood afar off, as they were required to.

All of the ten lepers called out to Jesus for mercy.  All of the ten sought Him.  Jesus reached out to them and told them to show themselves to the priest.  All ten obeyed Him, following His command.  On the way there, a healing occurred, but only one of the healed men returned to thank Jesus.

The nine who didn't return are like the unprofitable servant.  They had done what they were told to do, and they received a benefit.  But their focus remained on themselves.  They showed no desire to have an increased stewardship or a closer relationship with Jesus.  They showed no gratitude.  Only the one who returned showed those things.  Note that the Lord cared about these nine as well.  He was saddened by their failure to return in gratitude.

This one who returned was made a whole man.  He didn't need to have his faith increased; he had been given sufficient faith.

Then, in the 20th verse, the Pharisees demand to know when the kingdom was coming.  They missed the teaching of Jesus about a spiritual kingdom, and were still expecting a physical fulfillment of the kingdom prophecies.  (Note: Asking questions of the Lord is a good thing.  But we must come to Him with a humble attitude; we must never come in a demanding spirit.)

Jesus answered that the kingdom doesn't come with observation.  Jesus was fulfilling these things spiritually, the way they had been intended to be fulfilled, not physically, as they misunderstood.

We are not waiting for a kingdom to come.  God is reigning now.  We're in the kingdom now.  It's not physically observed; there is no pomp and circumstance associated with the true kingdom of God.  If you see that, get away; you can be sure that it is false.  This kingdom is not in a particular place; it is worldwide.

Loving service to God is the word of the kingdom.  Be looking to Jesus the King of this kingdom!